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Short-lived streaming app Aurous settles with US record industry

By | Published on Thursday 10 December 2015


The man behind the briefly controversial digital music player Aurous has settled with the Recording Industry Association Of America. It was only “briefly” controversial because the record industry went legal within days of the service launching in alpha, stopping distribution of the app before it had really begun.

Aurous was a streaming music app that pulled in content from a variety of sources, though, at launch, mainly from the file-sharing networks.

The service – and its founder Andrew Sampson – wheeled out the customary “we’re not hosting the content, we have legit uses, we’re just a search engine” excuses in a bid to fight off claims that his service was infringing copyright. But, despite a few days of being bullish about the RIAA’s litigation, Sampson quickly threw in the towel, offering to shut his very new business down and give the labels its domains and social media accounts.

The labels, though, continued to push for damages, hitting out at the appearance of the Aurous source code on Github, after an injunction banning the distribution of the app, which basically allowed others to carry on its development. Sampson insisted the code was published by mistake and was old version anyway.

All then went quiet in what had been quite a public spat, but clearly talks were ongoing behind the scenes. And yesterday a legal filing in the Florida federal court confirmed a settlement had now been reached. Both parties agreed that Aurous was, indeed, a copyright infringing service, and the app’s maker has agreed to pay $3 million in damages. Sampson and his business partner Danielle Astvatsaturova also agreed to never infringe again.

In addition to the formal agreement shared with the court, there was also an out-of-court settlement between the two parties, which – Torrentfreak points out – could actually lessen the financial liabilities of Sampson and Astvatsaturova. Given how little time Aurous was actually live, really the labels are looking to set a precedent here, ie that services of this kind infringe and the implications of that infringement can be significant. Financially, they may only really want their legal costs covered. Though we don’t know that.

Either way, RIAA boss Cary Sherman said he was happy with the arrangement: “Aurous appropriately agreed to shut down. It was the right thing to do. We hope this sends a strong signal that unlicensed services cannot expect to build unlawful businesses on the backs of music creators”.

Despite backing down quickly and fully, Sampson – while conceding services like Aurous might be damaging to rights owners and creators – did then tell Torrentfreak that he thinks US copyright law needs to be reformed. He said: “I implore Congress to amend the statute to reflect the realities of file-sharing. There is something wrong with a law that routinely threatens teenagers and students with astronomical penalties for an activity whose implications they may not have fully understood”.

Positioning his short-lived run-in with the record industry as a David v Goliath type fight, he added: “The injury to the copyright holder may be real, and even substantial, but, under the statute, the record companies do not even have to prove actual damage. In the US courts it’s not about who is right or wrong, people can judge this for themselves, its about how much money can you spend. My only fear is that this lawsuit opens up other websites and services to attack”.